A health chief at the Trust has spoken of the ‘humbling experience’ of meeting a World War 2 veteran this week during his stay at the University Hospital of North Tees.
Julie Gillon, Chief Executive for the Trust met with 103-year-old Terrence Lewis (Terry) this week. Her colleagues Steve Hall, Deputy Chair, and Ian Simpson, Non-Executive Director, also visited Terry.
Talking about the experience, Ms. Gillon said: “Terry is almost certainly the last WW2 veteran of his age left in Hartlepool. And I dare say sadly, one of the last of across the country.”
“Sitting with him, and hearing his experiences, and his utter resilience when facing some of the most enduring challenges of his life truly humbled me.”Julie Gillon, Chief Executive
Terry’s time during the war
In 1939, Terry was called up to serve in the forces as part of the Military Training Act. At 21, he set off to Harrogate to start his career in protecting his country and the world at large.
He explained to his visitors how in the midst of the terror of fighting on foreign soil. His early demise actually almost occurred on a street corner in Hartlepool.
On 48 hours leave from the battlefield, Terry returned home to see his family in the Whitby Street area.
On his first night back, he had enjoyed a catch up with family and friends, chatting on the street corner. The very next night, a bomb fell on the very same corner he was stood the night before.
During 1940 and 1943, there were an estimated 43 air raids on Hartlepool. This resulted in 70 deaths and over 7,500 buildings across the town destroyed.
Terry’s war took him through South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria. Terry laughed: “I wasn’t quite sure how I did it – but I won a donkey.” The soldier assured the party he left the animal in the safe care of a local convent.
The veteran’s time in Syria brought other challenges.
“I had the opportunity to play in a football match against a local team. As I stepped onto the pitch as an inside left, the referee quipped ‘you’re not playing in that Hartlepool shirt’.”Terry Lewis, recalling his memories of Syria
Terry served through Dunkirk and faced some of the greatest challenges of his military career before returning home to Hartlepool to recommence his career in education.
Ms. Gillon spoke with colleagues who attended the visit. She remarked: “Throughout our lives – professionally and personally we will face some enormous challenges.
“Some of them we feel are unjust and unfair. It is how we choose to respond that shows the true character of our being.
Terry reminded me of that as he thanked us for our visit, ending our chat with a wonderful line ‘as they say in the north east Julie – keep ganning’.”